Hepatitis is contagious. It is an inflammation of the liver that results from a virus. There are five types of viral hepatitis, and all are contagious, although they can spread in different ways.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. It can occur through excessive alcohol use, toxins, and certain medications. However, hepatitis often occurs because of a virus.

There are five different types of hepatitis:

The most common types of hepatitis in the United States are hepatitis A, B, and C.

This article looks at the different types of hepatitis and whether they are contagious, as well as symptoms, treatment, and outlook.

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How hepatitis spreads varies from one type to another.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is highly contagious. Eating food or drink contaminated with hepatitis A can transmit the virus.

The infection can also spread through close contact with a person who has the virus. This includes sexual contact, sharing drugs, or caring for someone with the virus.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is contagious and spreads through bodily fluids containing the infection, including:

  • sexual contact with a person who has the hepatitis B virus
  • sharing needles or syringes
  • through birth
  • contact with blood or open sores
  • injuries from an infected sharp object
  • sharing personal items, such as toothbrushes or razors
  • lack of infection control in healthcare facilities
  • blood transfusion (this is rare in the U.S. due to screening protocols for blood donation)
  • accidentally pricking oneself with a needle carrying hepatitis B

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is also contagious and spreads through blood passing from a person who has the virus to a person without the virus. This may happen through:

  • sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment that has come into contact with blood
  • having a blood transfusion before 1992
  • being birthed by a parent with hepatitis C
  • lack of infection control in healthcare facilities
  • accidentally pricking oneself with a needle carrying hepatitis C

Hepatitis D

As with other types, hepatitis D is contagious and can spread if blood or other bodily fluids from a person with the virus enter the body of a person without the virus, such as:

  • sexual contact
  • sharing needles or syringes
  • birth from a parent with hepatitis D, although this is rare
  • contact with blood or open sores from a person with the virus
  • injury from contaminated sharp objects
  • sharing personal items, such as toothbrushes or razors

However, hepatitis D, unlike other types, only occurs in people who already have a hepatitis B infection.

Hepatitis E

Hepatitis E, like all other forms of hepatitis, is contagious, and the virus occurs in the stool of a person with the infection.

Consuming infected fecal matter, even in microscopic amounts, can transmit the virus. This can occur through eating or drinking contaminated food or water.

Symptoms of a hepatitis infection can include:

  • fever
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • abdominal pain
  • dark urine
  • clay-colored stools
  • diarrhea
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • joint pain

Viral hepatitis can occur from the hepatitis A, B, C, D, or E viruses. Depending on the type, viral hepatitis can spread through:

  • contaminated food or drink
  • bodily fluids
  • sexual contact
  • sharing needles or syringes
  • childbirth

Non-viral causes of hepatitis can include:

  • excessive alcohol use
  • long-term or above the recommended dosage use of certain medications, such as acetaminophen
  • certain toxins and chemicals
  • autoimmune hepatitis, when the immune system attacks cells in the liver
  • other viruses, such as adenovirus

To diagnose a hepatitis infection, a doctor may do the following:

  • medical history and assess symptoms
  • physical examination of the liver to check for swelling
  • blood tests to check for any of the hepatitis viruses and to check levels of liver enzymes which can indicate liver damage
  • ultrasound of the liver to examine any changes
  • liver biopsy to test for inflammation and liver damage and to confirm findings
  • Types A and B: Treatment for hepatitis A and B includes rest, plenty of fluids, and good nutrition. In severe cases, people may require treatment in a hospital. People with chronic hepatitis B will require regular monitoring for any signs of liver disease and may require antiviral medications.
  • Type C: People will not usually require treatment for a new or short-term hepatitis C infection. Medications available in the U.S. can cure a chronic hepatitis C infection.
  • Type D: There is no specific treatment for hepatitis D. In severe cases, people may require a liver transplant.

People do not usually require any treatment for hepatitis E, as it often resolves by itself. Steps to help recovery can include:

  • plenty of fluids
  • rest
  • good nutrition
  • avoid alcohol

People with a hepatitis infection will need to check with a doctor before taking any medication that can affect the liver, such as acetaminophen.

Vaccines are available to effectively prevent hepatitis A and B. Hepatitis B vaccination can also help prevent hepatitis D.

People can usually recover from hepatitis A with home treatment. In most cases, it is a short-term illness. Once a person has recovered from hepatitis A, they develop antibodies which means they will not get the infection again in their lifetime.

Around 95% of adults with hepatitis B will make a full recovery. Chronic hepatitis B infection is more common in children and infants, affecting around 25-50% of children aged 1-5 years and 90% of infants with hepatitis B.

More than 90% of people with a chronic hepatitis C infection can recover with 8-12 weeks of treatment with medication.

Hepatitis D can be a short-term infection that people recover from, or it may be chronic. Severe hepatitis D may cause liver damage.

Hepatitis E usually resolves by itself at home without treatment. In severe cases, or if a person is pregnant, people may require treatment at the hospital. Most people with hepatitis E make a full recovery.

Viral hepatitis is a contagious infection. The five types of hepatitis viruses are hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E.

Each infection type spreads in different ways, which may include bodily fluids, contaminated food and drink, shared needles, or fecal matter.

In many cases, people can recover from short-term hepatitis infections without lasting damage to the liver.

For severe or chronic infections, people may require medications or treatment at a hospital. In some cases, hepatitis infections may cause liver damage.

Hepatitis infections may be more severe if people have pre-existing chronic liver infections or an organ transplant.